Mother Malaysia, at 67, can propel us to a great future

"ALL the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages or so," said Shakespeare in Act 2 Scene 7 of "As You Like It", which is a poetic take on the life cycle hypothesis.

As we usher in the new year, we step closer to a new "act" and we begin reflecting and taking stock of the issues or problems we faced and conquered over the last year.

Imagine Malaysia as a mother (or father, if you will). She is going to be 67 in 2024.

She has had many wonderful years , marked with progress and surrounded by friends. Mother Malaysia has been a woman of conviction, taking care of her multiethnic children in relative harmony .

Mother Malaysia, while considered an older person by global standards, stands at the threshold of a new chapter in her life, akin to an actor poised for a scene change.

In the grand theatre of existence, she has played myriad roles, weathered the storms of history and revelling in the sunshine of progress.

As we usher in the new year, it becomes imperative to reflect on the script she has woven, the challenges she has faced, and the triumphs she has celebrated.

Much like the seven ages delineated by Shakespeare, Mother Malaysia has traversed various stages in her journey.

She emerged from the cocoon of colonial rule, navigating the complexities of nation-building with grace and determination.

The multiethnic tapestry she nurtures reflects a commitment to harmony, a testament to her maternal instincts towards her diverse children.

Mother Malaysia faces a decision that not only shapes her destiny but also influences the fate of her children.

The choice before her is stark: whether to embrace the passage of time with resignation, allowing life to slip through her fingers like grains of sand, or to seize the moment and transform her golden years into a prime of empowerment and renewed vigour.

Choosing the former path, a slow decline, is not without consequences.

It entails a passive surrender to the whims of fate, a relinquishing of agency in the face of challenges.

Mother Malaysia risks becoming a mere spectator in her own story, watching the world evolve while she remains tethered to the past. This path, laden with missed opportunities, jeopardises the legacy she bequeaths to her progeny.

However, intertwined with Mother Malaysia's journey is the critical need for a robust social protection system.

The importance of such a system becomes apparent when considering the wellbeing of her children.

In the face of economic uncertainties, health crises and social challenges, a strong social protection framework acts as a safety net.

On the contrary, should Mother Malaysia elect to embrace her age with fervour and purpose, she has the potential to redefine what it means to be in the prime of life.

Age, after all, is but a number. The true essence lies in the spirit and tenacity with that one faces each passing day.

By taking ownership of her narrative, Mother Malaysia can turn the crossroads into a launching pad for a new era of prosperity, progress and wellbeing.

Empowerment, in this context, is not just an individual endeavour but a collective one.

Mother Malaysia's resurgence will reverberate through the lives of her children, those diverse communities that call her home.

A rejuvenated Malaysia can inspire her citizens to overcome challenges, foster unity in diversity, and chart a course to a brighter future.

As Mother Malaysia stands on the precipice of her 67th year, the choice before her is laden with significance.

The decision to let life pass by or to embrace this age as her prime is not just a personal one, it is also a commitment to the wellbeing and prosperity of her children.

The pages of her history are still being written, and the script is in the hands of the protagonist and the supporting cast.

As the curtain rises on a new act, the hope is that Mother Malaysia seizes the spotlight, radiating the strength and wisdom that comes with age, and propels her nation to a future imbued with promise and possibility, supported by a robust social protection.

Happy New Year, Mother Malaysia.

Professor Datuk Norma Mansor is president of Malaysian Economic Association and President, Social Wellbeing Research Centre, Universiti Malaya; while Dr Muhammad Aizat Zainal Alam is from the Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics, UM

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